U of M Regents Assure Lawmakers They Are Changing Culture When it Comes to Sexual Harassment

May 19, 2017 11:10 AM

Two members of the University of Minnesota's Board of Regents assured state lawmakers Thursday they remain committed to strengthening sexual harassment policies at the school, in the wake of an investigation that found a high-ranking athletic official had violated those policies.

KSTP broke the story last week about an internal investigation by the school's Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA) that found a top Gopher athletics official violated the school's sexual harassment policy involving another employee.

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RELATED: Report: U of M Athletics Official Violated Sexual Harassment Policy

"We need to change culture, not just policies and procedures," wrote Regent Chair Dean Johnson and Vice Chair David McMillan in a letter sent to Governor Mark Dayton and every member of the state legislature.

The two wrote the board's focus on the source of last week's story should not be mistaken for a lack of focus on the results of the investigation itself.

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“Recent conversations in Saint Paul leave us concerned that actions taken by the Board of Regents last week have led some to question our resolve to properly respond to complaints of sexual misconduct and prevent misconduct from occurring in the first place,” the letter read.

RELATED: University Report: Top U of M Fundraiser Sexually Harassed Woman, Handel Denies 'Any Sexual Intent'

"Please do not mistake our respect for confidentiality and honoring privacy laws as inconsistent with our stance on sexual misconduct. Respectfully, we need to set the record straight." 

RELATED: Board of Regents Sign Affidavit Regarding Sexual Harassment Report

In the two-page letter, Johnson and McMillan stressed the university is bound by law when it comes to what can be said about the latest investigation.

“For all concerned to trust that allegations of misconduct will be addressed firmly, honestly, and in a fair manner, we must respect confidentiality at all levels of the University, especially at the top,” the letter read.

“As you judge our efforts, as you are entitled to do, please know we are constantly striving to prevent sexual misconduct,” it continued.

The Handel investigation is the third sexual-harassment case inside the athletic department in the last two years. In April, the university and student senates passed resolutions calling for equal opportunity and Title IX training for all employees.

The letter said the school is nearing the conclusion of a system-wide effort to create a new policy on sexual misconduct.

"The process engaged students, faculty, and staff, and combines sexual assault and sexual harassment into one policy for a stronger, more consistent approach," the letter said.

Eric Chaloux

Phone: 651-642-4488

Email: echaloux@kstp.com

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Eric Chaloux

Copyright 2017 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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